The Internets are still a-flutter over Donald Trump’s presumed 2012 presidential bid, but opinion remains divided on how exactly viable a candidate he is.
In The New York Times today, David Brooks says that Americans are responding to Trump’s unashamed pursuit of “The Gospel of Success.”
This boyish enthusiasm for glory has propelled him to enormous accomplishment. He has literally changed the landscape of New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and many places in between. He has survived a ruinous crash and come back stronger than ever.
Moreover, he shares this unambivalent attitude toward success with millions around the country. Though he cannot possibly need the money, he spends his days proselytizing the Gospel of Success through Trump University, his motivational speeches, his TV shows and relentlessly flowing books.
A child of wealth, he is more at home with the immigrants and the lower-middle-class strivers, who share his straightforward belief in the Gospel of Success, than he is among members of the haute bourgeoisie, who are above it. Like many swashbuckler capitalists, he is essentially anti-elitist.
Over at The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson says that the GOP field is so underwhelming that it is not inconceivable that Trump sneaks through.
Still, if this is all a big joke, I’m having trouble laughing. For one thing, the likely Republican field is so timid that nobody seems to want to step out there – and so lackluster that Trump’s pizzazz could prove overpowering. No, I don’t believe that Trump is seriously running for president. But what if he continues this charade past the point of no return? What if he pulls away from Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and the others? What if he wins primaries and caucuses? What if . . .
It’s all too absurd to contemplate. For the record, though, it should be noted that not all of Trump’s headline-grabbing bombast is funny. A lot of it is ridiculous and untrue. Much of the rest is offensive and objectionable.
Begin with his adoption of the “birther” line of attackagainst President Obama. Questioning the president’s birthplace obviously began as a ploy to grab attention – and it worked – but then swelled into a central theme of Trump’s “candidacy” as he gained traction among the conspiracy theorists who actually believe such nonsense.
Also over at the WaPo, Roger Cohen says that Trump can’t win because too much is known about his past, but notes that he also can’t be dismissed that easily:
American political life is doing away with the back story. Increasingly, politicians are becoming religious types, Eagle Scouts who mastered all the knots, a monasticism leavened only by the occasional martini. They do not stray. They avoid midlife crises. They came out of the womb with certainty, avoided acne, married the first girl they dated and went on to make a fortune in something or other.
Then there’s Trump. He is all back story. We know his flops. We know he curses. We know his women. We know he lies. We know he has bad taste – in buildings, in ties, in associates (the late Roy Cohn, for instance, and now Roger Stone). He did not treat his wives well (according to them) and Ivana, in particular, retaliated by enlisting the New York gossip columnists. And now we must add this nonsense about Barack Obama possibly having been born outside the United States. Trump’s a birther. Why not? He’s everything else – and, anyway, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Such a man cannot become president. This is the required sentence. But the import, the gravamen, the theme of the Vanity Fair piece was more or less that Trump was finished – too much bad publicity, too many bad real estate deals, too many enemies, too much of just plain excess. And yet, like Melville’s whale or Spielberg’s shark, he keeps coming, coming, coming. His TV show thrives. His real estate empire survives. In this city, I look out my hotel window as I write this column. Before me is a huge box of bling. The desert sun enflames the name at the top: “T-R-U-M-P” in bold gold letters.
It spells BEWARE!
Karl Rove and Trump have been going at it for a while now, and on Fox News today Rove told Trump to lay off the birther issue and to lay off his criticisms of Rove’s former boss, President George Bush:
“Donald Trump can run his campaign any way he wants.
If he wants to run down George Bush and ask for the Republican nomination, I don’t think that’s a winning strategy.
And if he wants to base his entire campaign upon whether or not Barack Obama was really born in the United States, that’s his privilege. I just think that’s a losing strategy.”
Over at the Monkey Cage, Joshua Tucker, a political scientist at New York University, says that Trump is likely little more than a novelty candidate, but points out that novelty candidates have won before:
Let me at least put one fact out there: celebrities do win elections in the United States. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both elected governor of California. Fred Thompson and Al Franken were elected to the Senate. Sonny Bono served in the House. Clint Eastwood was a mayor. The idea that Americans could vote for a celebrity for an important political office can not just be dismissed out of hand as an impossibility.
And over at A Plain Blog About Politics, Jonathan Bernstein, a fellow political scientist, says that the media tend to overinflate the political net worth of both rich guys and New Yorkers, and adds that Trump’s past views will be a problem for him.
Tucker points out correctly that it’s not at all unusual for celebrities to enter U.S. politics at a fairly high level. However, it’s one thing for Bill Bradley to be a Senator from New Jersey or even Jesse Ventura to win a flukish race to become governor of Minnesota, and it’s a whole other deal for a guy who doesn’t actually believe any of the things that Republicans believe to win their presidential nomination. Even if he sort of pretends that he does. Hell, no one is sure if Mitt Romney can win the nomination because of his original positions, and he’s been consistently pretending to believe whatever he thinks Iowa caucus participants want for almost five years now.
What I will say is that traditional reporters really, really, overrate the presidential chances of very wealthy people and New Yorkers. And therefore Trump benefits from a systematic bias. Now, note that hardly anyone does take Trump seriously, as it is, with that bias, so just realize how silly taking him seriously sounds after you apply appropriate discounts.
And finally, here is another pundit round-up from Fox last night on the prospects of President Trump:
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
Note: Trump is the father in-law of the Observer’s publisher, Jared Kushner.